Battle of Cannae, 216BC




The Battle of Cannae is one of the most famous engagements of the ancient world. Hannibal had successfully crossed into Italy and decisively defeated Rome’s armies at Trebia and Lake Trasimene. Rome raised a new army and met the Carthaginian army in pitched battle. The Carthaginian army managed to surround and crush the significantly larger Roman legion, continuing Hannibal’s ravaging of the Italian countryside.


Rome had suffered heavy losses at Trebi and Trasimene, and adopted a strategy of attrition in order to starve and weaken the Carthaginian army. However, this strategy was losing popularity with the Roman people. The senate drew on their significant resources to quickly raise new legions with the aim of removing Carthage’s army from Italy.


Cannae, Italy


80,000 infantry and 6400 cavalry, commanded by Varro.


40,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry, led by Hannibal.


Hannibal’s deployed his army in a single line while the Roman legions arranged themselves in a standard three-line formation. As the Roman lines advanced, the center of Hannibal’s army steadily withdrew, allowing the Carthaginian infantry to form a crescent and surround the Romans. Hannibal’s cavalry advantage allowed him to complete the encirclement. With the Romans squeezed into a small area and surrounded, the Carthaginian army began slaughtering the Roman troops.


Decisive Carthaginian Victory


Rome was severely weakened, both physically and morally. Hannibal’s army, however, was still too small to march on the capital directly.


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